Jezik / Language:
23 November 2015

Verdict in Odzak Rape Trial Expected on November 26

Dzana Brkanic BIRN BiH Sarajevo

After a trial that’s lasted more than a year, the Bosnian state court will hand down a verdict in the case of Marijan Brnjic, Martin Barukcic, Pavo Glavas and Ilija Glavas on November 26, 2015. The defendants have been accused with wartime rape in the Odzak area.

The state prosecution has charged Brnjic, Barukcic and the Glavas brothers, all former members of the 102nd Brigade of the Croatian Defense Council, with the rape, assault, abuse, intimidation and humiliation of Serb civilians in the Odzak area during the summer of 1992.

The prosecution says the defendants preyed on defenseless women and children in Novi Grad. According to the indictment, female civilians were abducted from Novi Grad and were raped by the defendants, while their husbands were detained in a school building in Odzak.

“She came all torn up, bloody, and visibly exhausted. She was barely able to walk,” said state prosecution witness Risto Makic, who described his mother’s appearance after her rape.

The defense disputed the involvement of the defendants in these crimes, and claimed the trial proceedings against them were based on overblown charges. Witnesses for the defense provided alibis for the defendants and claimed they weren’t in Odzak when the rapes occurred.

The state prosecution examined eight witnesses and read the testimony of a deceased witness. The defense invited 15 witnesses to take the stand. Brnjic, Barukcic and Pavo Glavas also testified in their own defense.

Majority of Trial Proceedings Closed

The trial chamber excluded the public from the majority of the trial proceedings, to protect the privacy of the victims and the defendants. However, some injured parties asked to have their protective measures lifted and testified publicly. The defense claimed this was an attempt to “lynch” the defendants through public attention and media coverage.

The public was excluded from parts of the trial related to specific crimes described in the indictment, particularly accounts of rape described by injured parties.

State prosecution witness Milica Djekic said Croatian Defense Council soldiers came to her house the day she was raped. She said Marijan Brnjic, Martin Barukcic, Pavo Glavas and Ilija Glavas were among them.

According to the indictment, all four defendants raped Milica Djekic on the night of June 4 or 5, 1992, in the Posavska Mahala settlement.

Djekic identified the defendants in the courtroom. She said they were her sister’s neighbours and that her sister had visited the Glavas family when their sister was ill.

In a public portion of the trial proceedings, Djekic said she discussed her rape with other women.

In their closing arguments, the defense teams said the trial chamber shouldn’t give credence to Djekic’s testimony. The defense teams said that the state court had acquitted Ilija Juric, whom Djekic had also accused of rape, due to a lack of evidence and unreliable testimony.

The indictment alleges that Barukcic and Brnjic also raped Ljubica Lesic on the night of June 4 or 5, 1992. Lesic has since deceased, but provided a statement to the state prosecution before her death.

In her statement, which was presented during the trial, Ljubica Lesic said she was raped by Barukcic and Brnjic.

“Martin Barukcic took me to Jela Barukcic’s home. He ordered me to kiss a cross and started raping me. He said I was a whore and that we should be killed,” Lesic said.

She said Marijan Brnjic “threw himself” on her and punched her.

“Marijan said, ‘I’m not going to rape you like the others did.’ He started to rape me in the anus, several times...I fell unconscious from the blows and the disgust,” Lesic said in her statement.

She said she knew Barukcic and Brnjic from before the war. She said that Barukcic was nicknamed Martinac, while Brnjic was known as Cavka.

Brnjic’s defense said he was never nicknamed Cavka, and that the the nickname referred to an entirely different person. Brnjic objected to the reading of Lesic’s statement. During the presentation of closing statements, he testified in his own defense. He said he had no motive to rape Lesic, because he was happily married at the time.

Witnesses Smilja and Ostoja Ninkovic said Lesic looked awful after her alleged rape. They said she was crying and covered in blood.

Protective Measures Lifted By Request of Witnesses

According to the indictment, Martin Barukcic also raped a civilian named Joka Goranovic on May 9, 1992. Goranovic asked to have the protective measures granted to her lifted.
In a public portion of the trial proceedings, Goranovic said Barukcic and two other soldiers pointed a gun at her and ordered her to leave her house. She said she was taken to Odzak and that Barukcic was married to her cousin.
Barukcic challenged Goranovic’s testimony. He said Goranovic was his wife’s aunt and described her behaviour as “questionable.” Barukcic’s defense claimed she is an alcoholic.
The defendants have also been charged with the rape of Zorka Lesic, a witness previously referred to as D-2, in May 1992. Lesic said four defendants abducted her in a van with the words “Vatreni konji” written on it. She said she was driven to a house belonging to someone named Barbara.
“They entered the house one by one,” Lesic said. At this point in her testimony, the trial chamber asked the public to leave the courtroom. Lesic also stated that she needed to get an abortion in Brcko.
During cross-examination, Lesic said she didn’t report the rape because she was afraid. She said she hadn’t mentioned the defendants by name in her previous statements, because she didn’t believe they would ever stand trial.

Lesic said she saw Brnjic and others abduct Vera Lesic and a woman named Suzana.

Brnjic has been accused with the rape of Vera Lesic on July 3, 1992. Suzana Jesic testified on behalf of the prosecution. She said she heard Vera Lesic screaming the same night she was raped by Croatian Defense Council soldiers.

She said the driver of the “Vatreni konji” van told her Brnjic raped Vera Lesic in a forest. She said Lesic told her she’d been raped by Brnjic.

Brnjic’s defense said Jesic hadn’t mentioned Vera Lesic’s rape earlier. Jesic couldn’t explain this omission.

Defendants Weren’t in Odzak Area, Witnesses Claim

Defense witnesses said the defendants weren’t in Odzak at the time of their alleged rapes. Marijana Brnjic, Brnjic’s wife, said he went to Germany in May 1992 and didn’t return to Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war.

Defense witness Marko Antunovic said he visited Brnjic and his family in Germany on June 13, 1992, on St. Anthony’s Day. He said they went to mass together in Munich.

Ivo Brnjic, Brnjic’s brother, said the defendant was in Germany during his alleged crimes. Defense witnesses Josip Maric, Ivo Bajusic and Mato Ilicevic also made similar statements.

Testifying in his own defense, Brnjic said he was never a member of the Croatian Defense Council.

Numerous defense witnesses said Barukcic was militarily engaged in Doljani, in Posavska Mahala in the municipality of Odzak. During that time his wife, Vesna, and his son, Jure, were refugees on the island of Vir in Croatia.

According to defense witnesses, Barukcic went to Vir on June 1, 1992. The trip allegedly lasted seven days, according to defense witnesses and Barukcic. Defense witnesses Ilija Barukcic, Marija Barukcic, Jozo Pudic and Vesna Barukcic confirmed this series of events.

Barukcic denied that his unit ever drove a van with the insignia “Varteni konji.”

The defense of Pavo Glavas presented material evidence demonstrating that he was in Switzerland during the time of his alleged crimes. The evidence includes Glavas’s passport, which carries a work visa, valid from April 1, 1992 to December 12, 1992, as well as stamps indicating his entry and departure from Switzerland. A log of his work hours and a paycheque from June 1992 were also submitted as evidence.

Defense witnesses Luka Juric, Bozo Juric, Pavo Barukcic and Pavo Bratic confirmed that Glavas had worked in Switzerland.

After a year and four months in detention, Glavas was released from custody on September 16, 2015, after the defense submitted its material evidence to the trial chamber.

The defense of Ilija Glavas only presented material evidence. Defense attorney Senad Bilic repeatedly stated that the trial proceedings were “trumped up” against the defendants and that state prosecution witnesses should not be trusted. He said the injured parties had failed to mention his client by name.

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